Ithaca College  »  FLEFF  »  Blogs  »  Deindustrialized Spaces  » 

Blogs

FLEFF
Next » « Previous

Posted by Thomas Shevory at 8:45AM   |  7 comments
Erie County Courthouse

Thomas Shevory, Ithaca College

I spent part of Tuesday morning last week in the Erie County Courthouse in Buffalo, New York.  I was there to attend a hearing for Nushawn Williams.  I wasn’t sure which courtroom it was in and was told to check with the Prosecutor’s Office. The receptionist there told me that they weren’t handling the case. 

“That’s federal, I think,” she said. But I knew that wasn’t true, and said so.  Someone else, apparently an attorney, was standing there, and she asked him, “Do you know who’s handling the Nushawn Williams case”?  “No,” he said. A woman standing next to him asked, “Who’s that?”  “He’s the AIDS guy,” the attorney responded.   The receptionist made a phone call, talked for a bit, and then told me, “We’re both wrong. It’s being handled by the Attorney General’s Office, but you’re in the right building.” She then directed me to the appropriate courtroom.

Television cameras there were awaiting Nushawn’s arrival, but there were three cases on the docket before his.  Finally, they brought him in, shackled.  The camera operators were at the ready. Daniel P. Grasso, Nushawn’s attorney, asked Judge John Michalski to reconsider his denial of a previous motion dismissing the state’s current case against Nushawn.  The state’s attorney responded briefly. The judge quickly upheld his previous denial. And that was that.

Except that Nushawn intervened to request a change of counsel.  His attorney, he complained, hadn’t visited him before the hearing, and he hadn’t even been sure what it was about.  The judged denied his request practically before it was out of his mouth.

I waited for a bit and then left, walking back through the corridor and past the scrum of news people by the elevator.  I recognized one of them.  She half-smiled. She had interviewed me a while back for one of the Buffalo television stations. I didn’t smile back. I felt the story was unfairly edited to further demonize him.

Nushawn Williams, infamous for supposedly spreading HIV around Chautauqua County, New York, in 1997, has served his entire twelve year sentence. But he is still in prison, and the state is trying to have him kept behind bars as a dangerous sex offender under its civil confinement statute.  The legislation was pushed hard by Governor Elliot Spitzer, who eventually resigned when it was revealed that he had spent thousands of dollars on prostitutes while Attorney General and Governor.

I know Nushawn Williams quite well.  In 2005, I published Notorious HIV, about his case.  Writing the book, I interviewed him many times, and we became friends.  Last year, I was in Mongolia and out of contact. When I left, I expected, upon my return, to greet him as a free man. But, while abroad, a learned about the state’s decision to try to keep him confined.  I visited him a couple of weeks ago at the Wende Correctional Facility to reestablish contact.  When I learned about the hearing, I decided to attend.

And now I want to devote some of this blog to his case.  

 

 


7 Comments

While I am skeptical to believe that this is the entire story behind Nushawn Williams' case, mainly because the author is a friend of is, I do find his story extremely unfair. It seems completely unjust that Nushawn's request for a different attorney was denied. Everyone has the right to an attorney in the United States, and despite the fact that it isn't stated anywhere, shouldn't that attorney be a good one? Or one who at least meets with his client before trial?

Mainly what peeved me as I read this blog was that Nushawn has served his entire twelve year sentence and is not being released. To my knowledge, after reading this article, Nushawn did not rape or molest anyone. So why then, when rapists and pedophiles are getting out before their sentences are up, can't Nushawn be a free man after serving his full term? If the State of New York has listed him as a sex offender, let him move somewhere, tell people he's a sex offender as mandated by law, and leave him alone-- as they do with all other sex offenders whose crimes are sometimes much more severe.

While I am skeptical to believe that this is the entire story behind Nushawn Williams' case, mainly because the author is a friend of is, I do find his story extremely unfair. It seems completely unjust that Nushawn's request for a different attorney was denied. Everyone has the right to an attorney in the United States, and despite the fact that it isn't stated anywhere, shouldn't that attorney be a good one? Or one who at least meets with his client before trial?

Mainly what peeved me as I read this blog was that Nushawn has served his entire twelve year sentence and is not being released. To my knowledge, after reading this article, Nushawn did not rape or molest anyone. So why then, when rapists and pedophiles are getting out before their sentences are up, can't Nushawn be a free man after serving his full term? If the State of New York has listed him as a sex offender, let him move somewhere, tell people he's a sex offender as mandated by law, and leave him alone-- as they do with all other sex offenders whose crimes are sometimes much more severe.

That's so hypocritical. The legislation was pushed by Governor Elliot Spitzer. In a way, fell victim to his own laws. Not only did the televisions try to criminalize Williams through the camera, he wasn't given a fair and just trial in court. There are more serious "criminals" out in the world that we need to keep locked behind bars for years to come. Nushawn Williams is not one of them.

I'm glad this blog was posted, it shows another side to the story the media gives. It gives a chance for the public to hear about what they are not being told, and are given access to information they didn't have before. Personally, I do not know enough about this particular case to give an objective opinion, but from this blog I do not believe it was just for Williams to be denied a change of attorney, nor that he served his sentence and yet still is in prison. Hopefully this will raise awareness to his case, and any wrongs will be corrected.

Using my knowledge of journalism, it is interesting to note that Gary Chin says the media tried to "criminalize Williams through the camera". I was under the impression that media was the fourth estate, the one thing that could keep the government in line and in relation to the Sixth Amendment, check the court and make sure individuals received a fair and just trial. Where has objectivity gone?
I do not understand why the state believes Nushawn Williams is such a threat to the public or himself. I agree with Gary Chin in the fact that there are more serious "criminals" still roaming free in the United States or around the world that deserve being locked up much more than this teenager.
What a waste of jail space.

I'm not sure I compleatly understaind the whole situation but I do agree that the Media has a effective way of manipulating information. A bad status that associates itself with a name will become a bad name. I belive that Nushawn Williams might be a victom of this. He has been put into bad sinarios with only a half truth explained. The Media is notorious for decribing only part of the story.

Its our right, every humans right to a "fair and just trial". Though the facts and extreme severity of said crime need to be examined on a case by case bases. Given the evidence and the facts, I feel this case has done just this. To see through the mission to remove rapist, murderers, and pedophiles off the streets has to start somewhere and with someone. This is some cases is done by a predetermined time or life sentence for those caught and convicted. A mass conviction of persons accused of these heinous acts will never happen. Current defendants are removed from the public,supervised, and "punished" accordingly upon conviction. The fact that setting bail or a certain dollar amount to be free is questioned to be fair,can with out fail be argued.

In the wild it is instinctual and nature for animals to kill the week, wipe out the threats, and their own kind in competition for survival. Now we've come a long way since our primal relatives and animal instincts. Some would say were civil and domesticated. I feel for the most part society as a whole wants to feel safe, have a common "Humane" respect for our brothers and sisters. This unspoken common trust goes for all humans wants. Sounds more like love and security when we hear it but that goes deeper than home, its for your country, your future ,and your family. In addition to these wants an feelings we have law, constitution, rights, and justice for all to assist in these wants to achieve the greater good and protect from the lesser evils.

Nushawn Williams broke this humane trust and walked on the law that upholds it, its for the systems we have in place that prevent these threats from reoccurring and correct these problems for us all. Convicts like Nushawn are given the opportunity to be reevaluated for a potential new ruling. Nushawn has currently been evaluated and has been ruled a threat to the public's safety. The "convicted crimes" are the tip of the underlying problem with his release. After professional counseling, numerous hearings,and repeated appeals he is still guilty of his crimes and penalized for his charges yes, however in his current state again "has been classified a "threat" to the public".

Nushawn Williams is a human and one of our kind yes. However were no longer primal and things have obviously changed, some people have these instincts still and choose to act on them. Cases back in the 90's may have different ruling because the times were different. In some cases criminals repeat their offensive and are a prime example of new procedures to be implicated on current or future cases. Much like nature, criminals evolve and so must the law an it's penalties.

The manipulation of these laws is fair game given the boundaries are contained, a flaw of the justice system. Light can be made of this yes, however you don't have to be abusive or aggressively violent to be a rapist or pedophile, verbal and persuasive tactics can achieve the same outcome for those seeking certain demonic needs. Again case by case, facts in this case are underage rape(consensual doesn't stand argument here), Attempted Murder on many more than "13" counts, and A sleeping awaiting threat with no remorse.



Next » « Previous

You can follow posts to this blog using the RSS 2.0 feed .

You can see all of the tags in this blog in the tag cloud.

This blog is powered by the Ithaca College Web Profile Manager.

Archives

more...